Lions and tigers and the industrial infrastructure, oh my…
Second essay in the United Divides© series, by Michael D’Amico
Illustration by Pinky Twolegs
My respect for domesticated electricity is a healthy one; and as an electrician, there every day on the job, I knew one wrong move and I’d be burnt toast. I continue to respect that power and view domesticated electricity as contained fire with a wonder that perhaps carries over from those who in the ancient days were in awe of their learned use of fire to enhance their lives. But sadly we now take this gift for granted, much to the detriment of others. Addicted energy junkies one and all we be as we suckle daily on the teat of industrial electricity like dependent babies.
For the better part of my life I’ve dealt with addictions. Some I’ve overcome and others I still struggle with. I’ve learned that the struggle to success is to first submit to the addiction. Nothing easy about any of it, and one of the numerous ones I’m thrashing about with now is my dependence on electrical power fed from the industrial grid, and how to break free. In some ways it is a complicated subject and others it is not, but one thing is clear; our current addiction to electricity is not healthy for many.
The industrial infrastructure around the globe for the production and distribution of electrical energy is vast and deadly. Examples of those currently dying at the hands of this include endangered vultures such as the Cape and White-backed, who are zapped by power lines, as are giraffes, elephants, leopards, and primates. Hawks, eagles, pelicans, and ospreys in the United States are often either electrocuted by power lines or killed by wind turbine blades. Hydro dams around the world drown whole valleys, displacing people—some who are the epitome of sustainability— and block fish passage and are knocking out such freshwater giants as the Mekong catfish and stingray, and European sturgeon who are now on the brink of extinction. Marine species get impinged on the water intake pipes at many coal and nuclear power plants. The clearing of vast corridors of land to make way for transmission lines, and then the periodic mowing and dousing with herbicides, devastates the flora and fauna.
To add insult to that injury, only recently did we humans begin to comprehend the possibility of wildlife such as bats, okapi, and Red pandas seeing flashings from the ultra-violet lights in power lines that we humans can’t see. This could now mean that besides these linear clear-cuts being predator/prey and migration problems for wildlife, and poisoning the vegetation some feed on, we’ve put up flashing wires in the sky to further throw them off. These U-V findings are land based but begs the question will the undersea transmission lines for all these offshore wind turbines and floating solar power plants also do the same thing to marine life? Who’s keeping the body counts or assessing the well-being of the land when one form of industrialization is promoted to replace another for the supposed stability of the climate?
To learn of these impacts I had to go no further than to scratch the surface of the daily news outlets starting in February 2019. My major sources were the New York Times, Washington Post, USA Today, CNN, and The Guardian with mix-mosh of other sources from around the globe sprinkled in, and if any of these sources offered a link to something that grabbed me.
With all this knowledge of the harm readily available, why are so many marching on to the drumbeat of industrial renewable energy sources as one of the saviors of life on the planet while in the next beat lamenting the extinction crisis? Clearly, our sheer numbers as consumers of energy, as well as the abundant amounts of energy we want, are big challenges in addressing extinction and climate chaos. I cannot help but feel that until we face the fundamental problem of too many people consuming too many resources and begin actively conserving, we are unlikely to avert the extinction and climate crisis.
As I’ve expressed before industrial renewables benefit some, but not all, humans. An example of this is electricity produced from hydro dams. Once that water starts backing up, the forests behind the dam drown; and for you anthropocentric renewablers might I add that in many cases around the world many human communities are submerged and the people displaced, some who have been put to death opposing these mega industrial projects. So when I hear and see people supporting hydroelectric in the US or Europe as a clean green renewable while railing against it in some other corner of the world, I get confused. How long will it be before every southern tributary to the Amazon River is dammed up, or every Amazonian forest burned? How is slash and burn agriculture dirty while dams are clean and green? How is the murder of campaigners opposing hydroelectric different from the murder of campaigners opposing slashing and burning of forests? How do you separate the two? I for one cannot.
Next up: Change and the industrial stalk … # # #
The Rewilding Institute (TRI) mission is to explore and share tactics and strategies to advance continental-scale conservation and restoration in North America and beyond. We focus on the need for large carnivores and protected wildways for their movement; and we offer a bold, scientifically credible, practically achievable, and hopeful vision for the future of wild Nature and human civilization on planet Earth. Subscribe | Support